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Larry Bird… the most successful individual in basketball history?

Nick Sannicandro May 18, 2012 Celtics News, Larry Bird, The Team, Uncategorized 15 Comments

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With his crowning as the NBA's executive of the year for 2012, Larry Bird may have sealed his case as the basketballs most successful and influential individual in the history of the sport. Bird is without question one of the greatest players in the history of the league, but it is what he has done off the court that may have pushed him above all. Let's take a look at Bird's case as basketballs most successful and influential individual.

Larry Bird is a three time champion, a three time MVP, a twelve time all star, two time Finals MVP,nine time All-NBA first teamer, Rookie of the Year, and a three time three point shootout champion among other decorations as a player. He has one of the most complete resumes as a player in league history. Those you can compare that resume to are few and far between. The only individuals would be Magic, Jordan, Kareem, and Russell. Wilt never won the titles, nor did Jerry West or Oscar Robertson; thus why it is safe to say that Larry Bird is among the top five greatest players in NBA history. Where you place Bird is an entirely different argument for a different article but there is no question that Bird belongs in the group.

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What may set Bird above the rest is what he has been able to do off the court. Of the previously mentioned group, only Jordan and Russell dipped their toes into the water that is management in basketball whether it be coaching or as an executive. Russell would take over the Celtics in 1966 as the player-coach until 1969, and would later coach the Supersonics in the 1970s while Michael Jordan went on to take over the newly founded Washington Wizards and now currently serves as majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. We are all well aware of Jordan's shortcomings as an executive for both teams he managed, but Russell did enjoy a bit of success off the court.

For the Celtics, Russell would lead the team to championships in two seasons before announcing his retirement. Russell would later join the Seattle Supersonics in the 1970s and was able to turn the organization around into a playoff contender on numerous occasions, no small feat considering the mess he took over originally. Though his brief stint in Sacramento was a disaster, Russell did enjoy a bit of success off the court.

But is is Bird that stands above all else on this list thanks to his off court achievements. Taking over the Pacers in 1997-98, Bird was able to lead the Pacers to a 58-24 record, good enough to earn the 1998 Coach of the Year award. In his three seasons as a coach, Bird would achieve a 214-147 record good for a .687 win percentage and one trip to the NBA Finals.

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As an executive, Bird was able to oversee a Pacers team looking to rebuild after losing Reggie Miller. The process took longer than anyone expected, but with the success the Pacers have seen over the past two seasons, it is safe to say the project is nearing completion. Bird quietly was able to revolutionize how teams are built in the NBA. The only way to combat the "super teams" such as the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics where the emphasis was put on three superstars leaving holes in the roster at other postions was to build a team that was deep and solid in talent from top to bottom.

Bird built the Pacers not around one or two superstars but around a team of very talented All-Star level players. Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert,Paul George, Darren Collison, David West, and Tyler Hansborough are all talented players, but will all go their entire career without getting any MVP consideration. They aren't dominant players in the sense that they could carry an organization, but together they form an impressive roster. This was Bird's master plan, and a plan that has worked well enough to earn him the 2012 NBA Executive of the Year award. It is in this award that Bird has finally set himself above all else in the discussion of most influential and successful individuals.

With the award, Bird became the first individual to win an NBA title, League MVP, Olympic Gold, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the year. Only Red Auerbach, Pat Riley, and Frank Layden ever won both Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year in their career. Few players have ever won an NBA Title and League MVP while even less won an MVP, Olympic Gold and a Championship; but no other individual has earned the highest honor at every position within a organization (Coach, Player, Executive) and for that Bird is without question the sport of basketballs most influential and successful individual.

Yes, Bill Russell and Michael Jordan won more titles, Kareem made more All-Star games, Wilt scored more points, the list goes on and on, but the fact is that NO player has ever been able to find such high levels of success in all aspects of the game. Jordan struggled in the front office, Russell was never recognized as a great coach, and Kareem just never coached. Every aspect of the game that Bird has taken control of, has turned into gold. Maybe its the never ending drive to win, maybe its luck, or maybe just maybe Larry Bird is more talented than we will ever be able to comprehend. 

As the Pacers start to look more and more like a legitimate championship contender, the success is overshadowing the news that Larry Bird plans to step down at seasons end as the Executive of the Indiana Pacers. Surprisingly this comes just as the team he has spent so many years building, is finally enjoying postseason success, with a very promising future for years to come. Bird, never one to bask in the limelight may feel the uncomfortable attention that will be on him with the success the Pacers will eventually enjoy, but maybe he has finally achieved everything he could possibly dream of accomplishing in the NBA?

What more could he accomplish, especially if the Pacers by chance win it all? He's won the highest individual honors at every position in the NBA, he's won multiple championships, lead a team to another championship as a coach and was able to build a perennial contender as an executive. It is that reality that solidifies Bird as the sport of basketballs most successful and influential individual in the history of the sport. Enjoy the last few weeks of Bird before he steps out of the limelight, as once he is gone, there will most certainly never be another individual like him.

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  • Smh

    Because he’s white? Of course just like scal fans because they are white thy get more respect

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p01156f5d5008970c Jester00

    Come not even close we know the answer is Isiah Thomas

  • I bleed green in L.A.

    Larry Legend is my all time favorite player but I would have to give the nod to Kareem. 6 time champ, 6 time MVP, 19 time all-star, 2 finals MVP, 10 time all NBA first team, Rookie of the year, 3 straight NCAA Champs, 3 straight Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA’s tourney, 2 player of the year NCAA awards, 3 straight high school championships, Most points in the NBA, an unstoppable “skyhook”.
    Bird has never won the championship as coach or executive, he was great but rings are what matters.
    AND, Kareem fought Bruce Lee and made us laugh in Airplane

  • paul

    What a screaming load of steaming crap. Yes, Larry is an all time great, but racking up trophies doesn’t make you the most important, most influential, or anything else. Sure, he’s up there. But number one is Russell. Number two? Probably Jordan. Three? Split between Magic and Bird.

  • paul

    Russell was influential. Bruce Lee was influential. Jabbar had the greatest signature shot (one I think Rajon should adopt).

  • eja117

    I said the exact same thing over on Celtics Green.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/redslovechild1 Redslovechild

    Kareem`s combination of being by far the greatest college player ever AND the NBA`s all-time leading scorer is tough to top.
    Still, Jerry West gets my vote for having the best “resume” :
    Olympic gold…NCAA Final 4 MVP…NBA Finals MVP…NBA All-Star Game MVP…1 NBA scoring title…4 time All-Defensive Team honors…1 NBA ring as a player…7 NBA rings as a GM…NBA executive of the year with LA & MEM…NBA league logo…traded Divac for Kobe…won .589% of games as a coach…etc.

  • KY Celts fan

    wtf?

  • Pete
  • sev

    hahaha

  • sev

    how can you rank it like that when “I bleed green” just gave you kareem’s stats. Him and russell have to be 1 and 1a

  • sev

    the debate was most successful individual in basketball history….not influential

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0168ea46c4fe970c Nick Sannicandro

    All fair points, Kareem has a far more impressive resume as a player than Bird did BUT he never did anything as a coach. West admittedly should have been in the discussion but I never realized he won an exec. of the year in MEM, I assumed he did in LA but to be honest that doesnt impress me, he stumbled onto Kobe and threw tons of cash at Shaq. Memphis however, winning that award in Memphis is pretty special, not going to lie, the gap may have gotten a little closer after hearing that.
    However I have to say that while Bird hasnt won a ring yet in the front offices or sidelines, the fact is that he turned a mediocre Pacers team into an Eastern Conf. Champs, then rebuilt the team as a GM/Owner from scratch and they are now a legitimate power team in the conference, THAT combined with his success a a player is what inspired this article

  • http://profile.typepad.com/redslovechild1 Redslovechild

    West won the award in 2004 with Memphis, when they won 50 games. He took over the team two years earlier, after they won just 23 games.
    He hired Phil Jackson for LA in 1999.

  • http://mybhx.com/ drills for dribbling

    Larry Bird’s a legend! I mean, it’s not a question if he’s the most person in basketball history who succeeded the most. (Please set aside MJ) :p